Colin Dunlap: Hurdle Is Our Guy
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Clint Hurdle is the National League Manager of the Year.
Such was made official on Tuesday night in a runaway, when the Pirates skipper dusted the field to become the first from his franchise to win the award since Jim Leyland did it in 1990 and 1992.
All those wins, a change in culture and people fighting tooth and nail to get Pirates tickets for meaningful September and October baseball drew national acclaim to Hurdle and, thus, earned him the award.
For all of us here in Pittsburgh, however, he’s already earned a lot more. Award or no award, Clint Hurdle has become one of us.
In this day of social media, cameras are everywhere.
Twitter, also, is everywhere.
Sadly, people who lead a not-so-thrilling life are also everywhere, and they are ready to share with the world a covertly captured encounter when someone of greater acclaim does something that isn’t above board.
Whether it is snubbing someone for an autograph, zipping through a stop sign, cutting in line at the coffee shop, being a tad flippant to a shopkeeper or jaywalking, video and photos of sports figures have made their way on YouTube and/or Twitter for even the most mild misstep.
Think about this: Have you ever once seen Hurdle in any of these situations?
Have you ever once heard an account of Hurdle in such a situation?
Think about this a bit deeper: Could you ever imagine seeing Hurdle in any of those aforementioned situations?
I know I can’t.
And that’s why we love this National League Manager of the Year, as much for his acumen filling out a lineup card as his gentlemanly nature around our fair City of Steel and successfully reunifying the citizens with their baseball club.
Indeed you likely have a story — as most Pittsburghers do — of seeing Hurdle in a public setting since he became manager before the 2011 season.
The stories all seem to go the same way …
A Pirates fan bumps into the skipper at a coffee shop, at the mall or at a restaurant and approaches him to wish him well and thank him for what he’s done in moving the Pirates in a positive direction. From there, Hurdle is ultra-polite, tells the fan of how it is his honor to serve Pirates fans and never once comes off as someone who is bothered by Joe Schmo taking a few minutes of his time.
The accounts by Pirates fans are endless, they vary a bit, but all have a common denominator —- everyone mentions just how genuine Hurdle is when they interact with him.
No pretenses, no facades, not a fake or phony bone in his body.
You have seen it and, most definitely, I have seen it.
I have unique perspective as I have worked with Hurdle professionally, covering him since he arrived in Pittsburgh. I also live near him and see him from time to time in public.
Like some fans, I have also had encounters with him away from PNC Park.
One such day sticks in my mind, as my twins — now approaching 3 — were a little more than 1 at the time.
They were buckled in their car seats in our SUV as I was pumping gas into the vehicle. Just then a booming voice from the other side of the pumps says something such as, “are those babies in the car? I haven’t met them yet?”
It was Hurdle. And I responded that they were.
Without breaking stride, Hurdle opened a back door, reached in and commenced to belly-poking, giggling, smiling and doing general what-you-do-with-babies stuff as the twins cracked up for a little while.
There it was, at a North Hills gas station, the ever-noticeable Pirates manager taking his time to introduce himself to my family (in a hands-on way) when a simple wave and hello would have been more than sufficient.
As we look back at what Clint Hurdle has accomplished already in his short time in Pittsburgh, it will be driven to the top of the list that he has thrust this once left-for-dead franchise to 94 wins and the playoffs.
He also on Tuesday won the National League Manager of the Year.
That is all big time, resume-building stuff.
But you know what might be his greatest accomplishment?
He’s quickly become one of us; a regular guy who goes to work each day and tries like hell to do the best job he can.
He’s quickly become a true Pittsburgher.
To me — and probably you too — there’s no award that’s as important as that distinction.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at email@example.com. Check out his bio here.